It may not be generally known that Jerome K. Jerome, author of “Three men in a Boat” and its sequel, was a pioneer motorist, but from a chapter from another book of his published in 1926, called “The Wheels of Change”, sent to us by Vincent Freedman from Papua, New Guinea, this is quite apparent, and it would be interesting to know what cars he owned. What is especially interesting is that he describes going on the original Emancipation Run of 1896, but not in any detail. It seems that Jerome went on a “high two-seater with the editor of a financial journal”, with a driver up front, named Duguid, and that they arrived about last, if not actually last, in Brighton. The make of the car cannot be substantiated from the description.
It is well-known that the popular heavyweight boxer, Henry Cooper, is fond of fast cars and much can be learned of this from his autobiography published by Cassell in 1972, in which he refers to his family’s first car, an old black second-hand Ford Prefect, the Alfa Romeo in which he drove to Buckingham Palace for lunch with the Royal Family, the Bentley he had when he went to the Palace again in 1969 to receive an OBE, the hired Rolls-Royce that took him to one of the memorable fights with Cassius Clay, and the cars he later owned — Morris Cowley, Fiat 1800, 2.4 Mk II Jaguar, Mk X Jaguar, Alfa Romeo Ti, Alfa Romeo GT, Mercedes-Benz 220SE coupé, T-series Bentley, Jensen Interceptor (his favourite), Mercedes -Benz 280SE, and BMW 3.0S. But read his book for yourselves.
I pursued “The Letters of Ann Fleming”, edited by Mark Amory (Collins Harvil 1985) without finding much about cars, except that it is revealed that Ian Fleming ‘s mother had a Rolls-Royce that sat outside the Metropole in Monte Carlo all day in case she wanted a breath of fresh air and that when the Rolls-Royce Company gave a cocktail party there was a Concours d’Elegence, which at 90, in a car ten years old, which made it a 1962 model, she would win — in fact, all that happened was that they tried to sell her a new Rolls-Royce. And that Ann Fleming, wife of the creator of James Bond, ran into a taxi at Euston Square in 1964, her first motoring contretemp for 30 years. But the book is full of interesting anecdotes for all that. The Hon. Patrick Lindsay and Whitney Straight and his wife Lady Daphne Finch-Hatton, appear in the text and there is mention of Lord Lambton hiring a 1920 Rolls-Royce saloon in 1958 to take Mrs Fleming and the Edens to Donnington Grove, a car she describes as more dignified and comfortable than a Thunderbird (Ian Fleming ran a Ford Thunderbird at the time). Anyway the old Rolls-Royce with “its dusty beige luxury”, was approved of. There is also mention of the Humber Hawk with silver eagle on the bonnet, owned by Raymond Carr, which the Flemings used when staying in Portofino until Ann Fleming had the “clutch come away in her hand” in the heart of the Sperrin mountains, so that after endless walking for help they were rescued by a turf-cutting family who enjoyed the situation and the silver eagle and were finally towed away by an ancient Morris. There is too, a reference of a softening of Barbara Castle, the then Minister of Transport, to her attitude in 1966 of being adamant about keeping the 70 mph Motorway speed-limit; but alas, what do we find but that it is with us still, twenty years later.